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RTD info logoMagazine on European Research N°39 - November 2003   
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 TABLE OF CONTENTS
 EDITORIAL
 Tribology in the 'nano' age
 A dead end in 30 years
 Moulding public opinion – truth and myth
 Biocultural fervour
 A new ERA of research
 COMMUNICATION
 IN BRIEF
 OPINION
 AGENDA
 CALLS FOR PROPOSALS
 PUBLICATIONS

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EDITORIAL Printable version


Information is not manipulation

Just for once, we invite our readers to turn straight to the interview of Hans Peter Peters "Moulding public opinion – truth and myth ". At worst, it will leave you indifferent; at best, annoyed. 

In it one reads that our acceptance or rejection of technological and scientific innovation is determined largely by our preconceived ideas. Does this mean that, deep in our souls, we are all inevitably deeply irrational? And that we must therefore dispense with the widely held belief that high-quality scientific information can influence people's judgement? One must admit that this would certainly deal quite a blow to the sciences! Many researchers continue to claim, for example, that opposition to genetically modified organisms is due to the fact that most of the population fail to understand the underlying scientific notions. In short, all you need do is inform the general public about the secrets of transgenesis and everybody will rally to the GMO cause! It would all be so simple… if it were not for the fact that recent Eurobarometer surveys show that opposition to GMOs among Europeans is as likely to increase as it is to fall with their level of education.

Why then bother to inform at all if the information serves no purpose? Why the magazine you now have in your hands? Perhaps, in all modesty, those who engage in the difficult art of communicating and popularising science should simply hope to contribute to an evolution rather than a revolution in thinking, fuelling the democratic debate and developing the general culture in the process. In the present context, achieving such a goal would in itself be a considerable success. The important thing is to stop seeing information as a machine designed to convince or, worse still, to manipulate.

Our interviewee makes another interesting point: that the quality and accessibility of information reflects positively on the organisation that publishes it. Thus, RDT info also contributes – we hope! – to the promotion of research and the activities of research institutions.  

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